Friday, January 10, 2020

Review: Supergirl #38

Supergirl #38 came out this week, another chapter in yet another iteration of something I call 'Dark Kara', the inevitable every 4 yr turn of the crank where DC tries to make Supergirl evil or edgy.

I'm kind of sick of it. And this issue didn't curtail that feeling. In fact, I have gone from really loathing these takes to something worse ... being bored with them. How many times, even within this one continuity, do we have to see Kara dealing with her grief about Krypton by becoming evil or dark or edgy?

From her initial hatred of Earth when she arrived to her teaming up with H'El to her leaving Earth entirely to becoming a Red Lantern to her wielding an axe and nearly killing people to now being infected by the Batman Who Laughs, we have read this story before.

And Dark Kara fighting Diana, which she does in this issue, is also a common response.

Here, Kara bemoans the 'weakness' of humanity for feeling 'safe'. And yet she wants to 'free' people from this weakness by infecting them the way she is. So, becoming evil and not caring about things at all is the cure? And even then, isn't her 'caring' about people to the point she wants to infect them showing that she cares? I don't know.

I'm just sick of reading issues of my favorite character where she is the villain.

That said, the art by Rachel Stott and Inaki Miranda, is beautiful even as it presents Supergirl as a pro-Wrestler or fan of G'War. And Krypto remains a bright spot.

I hope Jody Houser turns this into something worthwhile. But the end can't come soon enough. On to the details.

 The title of the story is 'I'm the bad guy'. Wonderful.

We start out with a worried Krypto flying to Smallville where Supergirl has erected some alien technology tower. The townsfolk in the sleepy little hamlet is confused about what it all means.

Of course, Houser leans into the idea that Supergirl has some bone to pick with Superman. She wants to show she is stronger. That he is weak. And what better way to show some dominance than to do evil in Clark's back yard.

But we had come so far with the Super-family. Brian Michael Bendis really has made the Els a loving, supportive clan. I know Kara is infected. But she should be beyond this.

 I love how Krypto is a much needed bright spot of joy in the book.

On seeing Kara, even in this form, he attacks her with affection.

You know this isn't a right-minded Supergirl given how she recoils from the licks of love. We have seen her enjoy these before.

Krypto is such a good boy!

And then Kara unveils her plan to her pooch.

She has built a better tower than even the Batman Who Laughs had built. And with that she will disperse the virus which infected her to the entire world.

But her reasons seem to be to shove it in Superman's face. She wants him to finally see she is stronger than him.

I might remind you that my number one Supergirl moment of 2019 was the El family hugging each other. I will point out that in the Superman books, Kal and Kara have become partners in many adventures.

This anger aimed at Superman seems off. And I get that this is an infected Supergirl. But all the more reason for her to have been able to shrug this thing off. She is well beyond this.

 At least Superman seems to get it.

He wants to fly to Smallville and confront Supergirl. She's family.

Alas, in the current DCU, Batman seems to be king. He tells Superman that he cannot go and face Kara. This World's Finest has to face off against all the other infected. They have to quell any panic humanity might have when faced with evil heroes.

And Batman has already sent someone to deal with Kara.

I guess I can understand the strategy Batman has here. But I could have used with Superman arguing his point a little more. His cousin, maybe the second most powerful being on the planet (at least in the top 5) is working to infect everyone. Maybe she is actually the biggest threat ... or the most imminent threat ... on the board.

Instead, he just sort of kowtows.

 Remember, this is a Supergirl book. It is written ostensibly for Supergirl fans.

Nothing makes Supergirl fans happier than seeing her terrorize elementary school kids saying the world is never ever safe. After all, her world ended in blood and fire.

How can I, as a Supergirl fan, get behind this characterization.

At least Krypto is there to calm the kids down. Krypto is really the star here, the hero.

 Then she heads back to her tower where she once again laments the weakness of humanity and how they changed Kal. And this weakness in humanity is the joke that makes the Batman Who Laughs laugh.

Because trying to keep people safe is a weakness.

Again, why would a Supergirl fan be interested in this.

 Finally the people of Smallville decide to rally around the tower and call Supergirl out.

And one brave young girl has the courage to stand up and call Supergirl a monster.

It is interesting that Kara's expression seems to soften when hearing this. It is as if the real Supergirl is still in there. And hearing this hurts in some way.

Now if Kara shook this all off on her own, I'd be pretty thrilled. After all, she has faced all these demons before! But we know we have at least 3 more months of this.

 Luckily the agent Batman sent to face Supergirl arrives. It's Wonder Woman.

Diana stops Kara from infecting the young girl who spoke up. And then she says that this Kara is not the Supergirl she knows. It is time for Supergirl to think of a better way to save people. And it isn't with infections. Nice open hand here ... a helping hand from Diana.

At least Supergirl's character has been rehabilitated in the eyes of the DCU heroes. This Wonder Woman knows that Kara is better than this.

But this isn't that Kara. So of course the two throw down. Diana and Dark Kara fighting how innovative!

And maybe the magic lasso can contain Dark Supergirl or bring out her real personality! (2019)

And maybe the magic lasso can contain Dark Supergirl or bring out her real personality! (2004)

And maybe the magic lasso can contain Dark Supergirl or bring out her real personality! (2013)

And maybe the magic lasso can contain Dark Supergirl or bring out her real personality! (2019 revisited)

It seems like maybe there is a 'real' Supergirl in there trying to break out. Because the lasso seems to get Supergirl partly back to normal.

Look, I get that the higher powers dictated that Kara would be infected. I like the fact that they have made her a sort of rogue agent, doing her own thing rather than working as a servant of the Batman Who Laughs.

But I have read all this before, or some version of this before. It just seems tired.

I can only hope that Jody Houser is able to pull this out of the fire and have us see a redeemed Kara (again).

And while I haven't mentioned it specifically, Rachel Stott really does a superb job here. I like how she is able to convey feelings in the expressions of the characters. Stott's Wonder Woman is very slick. And Inaki Miranda covers the throwdown pages with some dynamic work.

But I can't wait for us to get past this. I want to read a heroic Supergirl in her own book. Not this gaudy villain.

Overall grade: C


John (somewhere in England) said...

I'm fed up too. I'm tired of watching Supergirl punch Superman and other heroes who are supposed to be her friends and allies. I'm also becoming increasingly frustrated by the difficulty of understanding stories without buying numerous other comics so as to understand the context of those stories. For example, to follow Supergirl you have to have a good working knowledge of H'El On Earth, the Red Lanterns, Leviathan and The Batman Who Laughs. Fortunately my other favourites - The Legion of Super Heroes and Batgirl - are still fairly self-contained whereas Supergirl seems to be a permanent crossover.

Martin Gray said...

Amen to all that, Anj.

At least we saw what a top scientist even a Infected Kara is!

Yes, I know, I am straining to find something good here, it's what Supergirl would do. I know that, why doesn't DC?

Great use of all the previous Kara/Diana fights... oh boy, that 2004 panel with Wonder Woman's boobs overpowering good and bad Kara, just pathetic.

Anonymous said...

Whatever new readers they might pull to the Supergirl title with this will be diametrically opposed to what traditional Supergirl readers want from a comic.

Some of us will walk into the future disappointed.

Old DCSHG gets her and writes her well.
CW gets and writes her well
New DCSHG has a working version of her that is well written
Gotham City Garage gets her and writes her well
Bombshells gets her and writes her well
Friggin Injustice gets her and writes her well
Why is her main title a dumpster fire?

Someone at DC must have looked at this and said:
- "This pitch is the exact opposite of the spirit of the title. Also, it's been done before. What's new is that her evil is more tasteless than before going after kids. We probably shouldn't do this."

Someone should have.

Bostondreams said...

I don’t know. I honestly liked this issue, because I think it lays some hints that Kara is the one most likely to overcome the infection and turn on Goth Batman. She still sees herself as a hero, and believes she will save lives by destroying the weaknesses of humanity. She responds to Krypto with some level of pleasure, and she continues to do heroic acts (tho she is unpleasant about it, true). And she responds to Diana. She doesn’t want to kill or rule (unlike Infected Hawkman). I think she eventually is the key to defeating TBWL.

Anonymous said...

Theory: Houser and Stott are already off the book, and have been since before their first issue went on-sale.

Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but neither has anything to say about Supergirl on social media, except to announce when issues go on sale. They don't seem all that enthused. Maybe they'll never have a chance to write and draw a healthy Supergirl.

On a positive note, Stott draws decent a Krypto, Superman and Batman.

It's possible that, as lousy as the story is, it makes more sense than the aimless Harley Quinn & Poison Ivy, which Houser is also writing right now.


Ben said...

I'm sick of Batman's uncontested, unchallenged dominion over the DCU too. I'm not sure who's responsible for this idiocy; maybe the writers feel all the other characters have to kowtow to Bruce because he's DC's biggest breadwinner?

On a more positive note, I LOVE Krypto in this issue. He's loyal to his mistress even after she's been transformed into an evil pseudo-Goth sociopath. If that isn't indicative of a very, very, VERY good dog, I have no idea what is.

Aaron said...

I was so sick of reading this book, that I didn’t read it for several issues. I still bought the book because I want to support the character and show DC that I still care, even if they don’t. I’d accumulated enough issues (32 -38 + Annual #2) that I thought I’d binge read them in the hope that maybe by reading a huge chunk of the story instead of single snippets each month, I’d get into it a lot more and enjoy it better. Well, what a mess.
I get that Houser is a great writer, but I feel that Marc Andreyko broke his toy before having to hand it over to someone else. I mean, Kara did kill the Brainiac drone being, right? She totally melted his head off. He’s dead; she killed him. Yet, Batman said (in this latest issue) that Supergirl didn’t kill him (Batman) during their fight, so there’s hope for her (meaning she hasn’t killed yet). What?? Also, a couple of issues ago, Jeremiah killed one of Kara’s attackers, to which Kara shouted “You just murdered a man, we’re not on the same side!” (or words to that effect) Then he removes his helmet and Kara finds out it’s Jeremiah… and suddenly she’s totally fine with being on the same side as a killer! As I said, Houser is a fine writer.. but… the writing in this book is becoming downright shoddy at best. It’s a series of inconsistencies in a story that has a fast pace and it’s tripping over its own plots.
In short, it’s shit.

What I was very grateful for is that Superman and Batman were on Kara straight away trying to help her, and now that Diana has made some breakthrough with her Lasso (sigh… again) hopefully this Dark Kara won’t be around too long. I’m hoping that Houser too wants this to wrap up. Unfortunately, like you said, Anj, I too think this is out of Houser’s creative control.

For God’s sake, DC wrap this shit up. You can’t be too many issues away from seeing this book for sale in the toilet paper isle.
These are just my personal opinions of course.

Thanks for the platform Anj, and a great review as always. :)

Anonymous said...

I recently found this blog, and I have to start by saying I haven’t been a big follower of Supergirl. But I want to ask regular fans: Who do you think is the target audience for this book? As a bit of an outsider this title seems to be sui generis to me for the last year or so, and not in a good way.

Looking back at previous comments here I’d say fans of Supergirl in comics seem quite disappointed in this version of the book, and that seems to have been the case since Orlando left. They’re not the target audience.

People who regularly watch the television show love a compassionate Kara and her interaction with the lives and thoughts of the secondary characters. This comic over the years seems to actively strive to have no secondary characters past the end of the current writer’s term, and it’s difficult to connect this Kara with anything you see on that show. TV viewers are unlikely to be return customers for this.

Either version of the DC Superhero Girls features a Kara who has faults, but isn’t alone or portrayed as the villain. And there’s humor and interesting schticks and bits to go along with the battles. Those folk aren’t going to see any of that here.

The comic has been stuck for many months in crossover-land, doing some heavy lifting for other books with the Rogol Zaar or the Batman Who Laughs storylines and villainous plots. So fans of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman might be part of that target audience as temporary buyers even if regular Supergirl fans aren’t. But anybody who buys the book because of the crossovers isn’t going to stick with the book after it’s over, particularly since what shows up in the Supergirl comic are essentially side stories.

People who like alternate covers by fan favorite pin-up artists are getting things to buy, but they’re one-time buyers and are unlikely to continue with the book on a regular basis.

So I’m stuck. I can’t figure out what DC is doing with this book and character, what their long-term plan is, or if they have one. I like the character, and think she’s got a lot of potential, but I don’t see any of that potential being utilized. I’ve gone back and read some collected editions from a few years ago, and they weren’t like this. From what I read here it seems regulars can’t figure it out either. That’s really strange for a character who has a regular weekly television show and appears in various other media.

Martin Gray said...

Thanks for joining us, you’ve perfectly summed up the bamboozlement many of us feel as regards DC and Supergirl. I’d love to see her gifted an editor who’s truly dedicated to her; a fan, but not one so blinkered by love for the version they grew up with that they can’t find the key to making her work for today. Someone who can ensure that when Kara is dragged into the inevitable crossovers, her own story isn’t subsumed and her character isn’t crushed. Someone who, with a talented, dedicated creative team, can come up with a vision for Supergirl that has positivity and compassion at the centre of things, and execute it beautifully.

That’s not much to ask, is it?

Aaron said...

Very well said, Martin! I can't echo your words enough.

Welcome, Anonymous... I know I’ve rubbed people up the wrong way with my opinion, but (strictly my own opinion) the Supergirl TV show sucks, except for its first season (which was on CBS and not the appalling CW). It was the first season of the TV show that inspired Steve Orlando to write his run on the comic. It was a slow start, but his Rebirth Supergirl was compassionate and thoughtful and was a joy to read; it was refreshing (especially after The New 52) and it was really starting to get great when, unfortunately (because today’s society needing instant gratification) DC decided to go in a different creative direction and cancelled Orlando’s run. Since then the pacing and characterisation has never felt quite right to me, and the book has ended up as the mess we currently see it in.
But, I do hope that there are some people that are genuinely loving the book; my opinions are strictly my own, and I do still want people to love Supergirl. I just wish DC shared the same sentiment.

Bostondreams said...

I’ve been following the blog for awhile. Honestly I am enjoying this overall, mostly because I do think we will see Kara as the key to defeating that stupid Batman. But I guess I’ve always enjoyed most of the different series. I guess I’m easy to please. Kara and Diana are by far my faves, and I’ve never really not enjoyed either series (except for that time where they put Diana in a halter top and spandex shorts in the 90s. Ugh.)

kenkraly2004 said...

The art is good but the story not so much. I will be glad when this Batman Who Laughs tie in story is finish and we see happy Supergirl Kara again. So tired of Dark Supergirl stories but at least Wonder Woman came in to try and save Kara for like the millionth time.

Professor Feetlebaum said...

I don't know that DC has a target audience in mind for Supergirl. They seem to be doing everything in their power to drive the fan base away. Maybe they figure Supergirl fans will buy the book regardless. Maybe they're right.

Supergirl has been the victim of bad and/or misguided management decisions since the 1970s. Things will be going good for awhile, but you can bet that sooner or later, something will happen to mess it up.

To sort of get back to the original topic (Supergirl 38), I wonder what a Bizarro version of this Jokerized Supergirl would be like?

Anj said...

Thanks for great discussion here!

In fact, it has been so enlightening that I think I’ll craft a new post around it.

The question is ‘is there a target audience’?

Anonymous said...

In a crossover crisis, count on Superman being Jobbed Out to Batman, or at least the Caped Crusader will Boss the Man of Steel around like Kal El is a temp on his first day. The other thing you can count on, is that Supergirl will turn evil (this is what evil turn number four since 2004?) and that she will in turn get Jobbed Out to Wonder Woman.
BTW the above poster is right, doesn't it seem like Supergirl has been in full crossover/guest star mode for the past two years? Effectively there is no dedicated writing on this book, its all jerry-rig to support another storyline fronted by another writer. When was the last time Supergirl went more than six months in her own book with a dedicated storyline about her?
The Target Aud for this book is a minority of the TV shows viewershipS (remember she is on two programs currently, top that Batman!) who are likely horrified by the current storyline...after that its the lags who show up every Wednesday. Now they could be writing for a bigger more diverse audience, but the DCU cannot get out of it's own way when it comes to Supergirl where the rule seems to be "the enemy of the perfect is the stupid".
I mean literally Supergirl is a supporting player in her own book, she has no real backstory, no supporting cast no rogues gallery (save herself) when this is over she'll just segue into another cross over crisis...given DC's expectations an intern could write Supergirl at this point.
So I'll just end with my usual mantra, that I love DCU characters but I hate DC Comics the Company, they consistently hold their audience in contempt, deliberately abuse characters for "cheap heat" and expect free reign to do all this carnage repeatedly sans demure.


Anonymous said...

I'll be interested to hear your take on that question Anj.

I'm thinking that the comics department at DC keep staring at Batman's numbers and looking for ways to bring other comics there. Thus searching for a target audience in their Batman audience.

I think they make a few mistakes by dragging Supergirl in that direction.

1) Many Batman readers don't read Supergirl. Making Supergirl dark won't sway most of them as they have more reasons than lack of grit to not read Supergirl.

2) The Batman audience is already saturated. There are more Batman comics than most will buy. The few whales that buy everything they want is a small part of that audience.

3) Few of the new readers will stay after the end of the event, making most new readers a short term gain.

4) Deeply engaged Supergirl readers who have been faithful readers from her first appearance gets disappointed. The deeply engaged are the readers that are most social media active, leading to a negative discussion about the book.

5) Long term effects on the impression of the character: During Orlandos run I considered Supergirl suitable for younger readers as well. That's not a recommendation I will give anymore.

Supergirl had good sales numbers during Orlando's run. There, I think lies the true target audience of Supergirl. There - is a version of Supergirl that you recognize no matter where you first saw her.

The angry reimagination for New52 was an unrecognizable Kara. The right call was made during Rebirth, giving her a clean slate.

I think this time with the infected, they might have gone too far. Is there a way to lure the lost half of the core base back now after she became a monster that children fear who started killing?

I am doubtful.

I get no joy from this version anymore and I am not sure what DC can do to change that now with anything less than a reboot and a new non-killer Kara arriving on earth.

My answer is that I think that there is a target audience for Supergirl, but I don't think it is possible to bring it back without a reboot after this.

I think that changing the target audience to a new one was a mistake the first time, and it will always be a fool's errand.

The current Supergirl title does not have a target audience. It's a mix of Supergirl lifers, disappointed fans, and visiting WW and Batman readers.

It's not a healthy reader base.

DCs Comic department need to take advice from their young adult imprints. They don't compromise the characters or values in the quest for readers and they are doing fine.

It is there I will go now for my Supergirl reads. I considered myself the target audience since Action Comics 252.

Whatever this is that they are doing, I am 100% certain I am no longer in whatever target audience they now have.

Anonymous said...

A positive thing about Supergirl 38 though. The alt cover by Derrick Chew is one of my all time favorite covers. I love that Kara put a sticker on the robber's head with "Bad Guy :("


Anonymous said...

Chew has been doing great work with lighting, soft-focus backgrounds, and textures. I can see in the previews that on the upcoming cover for #39, the costume is drawn to appear made of a textured or stretchy material - some may like or dislike it, but it's definitely a different look, that seems to make the drawing look alive. Then he goes another way with #40, using a more traditional flatter inked line-art approach, which I don't think plays to his strength but is still quite good.

There seems to be a small group of artists either working together or influencing each other from the "Artgerm school" - perhaps Artgerm is their mentor. He features the group's work for sale on his own site ( - Chew, Ejikure, Kendrick Lim, Artgerm, all of them working in the same style that I'd call, for lack of a better term, "manga-inspired digital painting of western superheroes." You know it when you see it :). If there's a better term for the style... let me know!

Alex Garner's work has a similar painted feel, in terms of lighting and texture - he did a great run on Teen Titans (his covers were the best part of the title) and he'll now be doing the variants for Legion of Super-Heroes, starting in Feb with #4. They look amazing.

I only wish all this great art was on regular comic book cover paper, not card stock.